On a chilly winter day, nothing warms your body and soul like a steaming bowl of soup. When you’re living on your own, it’s always good to have recipes on hand for quick and easy meals. Easy soup recipes are helpful, but the real secret is to start your soups with a tasty stock — beef, chicken, or vegetable.
There are two ways to get stock: prepare it from scratch and store it in the freezer, or purchase ready-made stock in the grocery store and keep it in the cupboard. Either option will work, though you may find store-bought stock to be more convenient.
Either way, once you’ve got stock to work with, it’s easy put your chef’s hat on and fill your bowl with some tasty soup!
Step 1: Preparing Homemade Stock
If you’re happy with shortcuts, skip ahead to Step 2. If you’ve never had time for kitchen creativity until now, do-it-yourself broth making may suit you.
Good stock starts with bones. So, whenever you pick up a barbecued chicken at the store, freeze the carcass for later use in your stock pot. If you’re shopping specifically for soup chicken, go for bony chicken drumsticks or — better yet — ask at the meat counter for chicken feet or chicken backs, which work even better for stock than drumsticks.
You don’t have to carefully follow a detailed recipe to make good stock. For chicken stock, simply fill your Crock-Pot or stainless steel soup pot (10 or 12 quarts) halfway with water, add several pounds of chicken parts, along with carrots, celery, onion, parsley, dill, salt, and pepper. Simmer it all for several hours or until the bones soften.
For beef stock, substitute beef knuckles and other beef bones. For vegetable stock, omit the bones and add veggies like carrots, onions, and mushrooms.
Remove the solid parts you don’t want to eat and reserve the liquid for soup making.
Step 2: Preparing Homemade Soup
Once you have homemade or ready-made stock, you can follow almost any easy soup recipes.
For thick squash soup, put a whole acorn squash in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour. The aroma will be delightful. The squash will emerge soft and easy to cut in half. Remove the seeds, mash the pulp a little, and add it to your chicken stock until the soup reaches the thickness you like. Then heat it in a small pot with a tight lid. Add a few chopped green onions if you have them and salt and pepper to taste. Simple, isn’t it?
Want a nice white bean soup? Open a can of white beans, drain, mash a little, and add them to your chicken stock. Optionally, you may add half a chopped onion. For black bean soup, saute two medium onions. While that’s happening, drain a can of black beans, partially mash the beans, and add them and the onions with a quarter cup of salsa to your chicken stock. Salt to taste.
Starting with stock, you can make a variety of homemade soups from leftovers in your fridge. Mix and match foods with different stocks to see which combinations you like best.
Herbs are wonderful for varying the taste of soups; follow the old Simon and Garfunkel song and keep a supply of “parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme” on hand. Once you’ve got stock, you can use it to make countless soup recipes available online or in books.